Laighin took its name from the most powerful of five prehistoric tribes in the southeast. These tribes were united in the C7th BC by Úgaine Mor / Hugony the Great, who built the hill-fort of Ailinne Knochawlin, near Kilcullen in modern County Kildare, and is regarded as the first king of Laigin
Following a period of civil wars, the kingdom of Laigin was re-founded c. 175/185 AD by the legendary Cathair Mor.
In the C5th, after Magnus Maximus left Britain with his legions, leaving a power vacuum, colonists from Laigin settled in North Wales, specifically in Anglesey, Carnarvonshire and Denbighshire. The Llyn Peninsula is generally believed to derive its name from Laigin (although some contrarians contend that “Leinster” means “Land of the men of the Llyn Peninsula”).
Laigin split into two in the early C8th; a northern dynasty was founded by the Uí Dúnlainge chieftain Murchad mac Brain, (d. 727), while a southern dynasty was established by the Uí Cheinnselaig / Hy Kinsella chieftain, Áed mac Colggen (d. 738).
The Vikings established ports at Dublin, Wicklow, Arklow, Wexford and Waterford in the C9th, colonising the areas around them to a greater or lesser extent, and entering into alliances with Gaelic chieftains in those regions and further afield. Although their power waned after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, they continued to exert an important cultural influence.
When the last northern chieftain, Murchad Mac Dunlainge, died in 1042, the kingship of Leinster reverted to the Uí Cheinnselaig sept, which came to be known as the MacMurrough Kavanagh dynasty.
Osraige / Ossory
Osraige was ruled by the Mac Giolla Phádraig family from their stronghold at Cill Chainnigh from at least the C2nd until the C13th; its territory corresponded to the medieval Diocese of Ossory, established in the year 549 AD. In historic times Kilkenny replaced Aghaboe as the chief church in Osraige.
The kingdom was bounded by two of the Three Sisters the rivers Barrow and Suir and the northern limit was, generally, the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The Osraige —their name means people of the Deer— inhabited much of modern County Kilkenny and parts of neighbouring County Laois. To the west and south, Osraige was bounded by the River Suir, to the east the watershed of the River Barrow marked the boundary with Leinster, and to the north it extended into and beyond the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The River Nore ran through the Kingdom.
Osraige formed the easternmost part of the kingdom and province of Munster until the middle of the 9th century, after which it was attached to Leinster. Osraige was largely a buffer state between Leinster and Munster. Its most significant neighbours were the Loígsi, Uí Cheinnselaig and Uí Baircche of Leinster to the north and east and the Déisi Muman, Eóganacht Chaisil and Éile of Munster to the south and west.
The name Osraige is said to be from the Usdaie, a celtic tribe that Ptolemy’s map of Ireland places in roughly the same area that Osraige would later occupy. The territory indicated by Ptolemy probably included the major late Iron Age hill-fort at Freestone Hill which produced some Roman finds. Also the interesting burial at Stonyford which is of typical Roman type and probably dates to the 1st century AD. The Osraighe themselves claimed to be descended from the Érainn people. Others propose that the Ivernic groups included the Osraige of the Kingdom of Osraige/Ossory.
The Brigantes were the only Celtic tribe to have a presence in both England and Ireland, in the latter of which they could be found around Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford.
(To be cont.)